Veteran Focus Leads to PTSD Coach Success

Posted by Erin Routson

We’ve talked about the extremely successful PTSD Coach mobile app released by the VA on our site before, but a recent article on Nextgov has revealed the process behind its creation — something that makes its success that much more important to us at Public Policy Lab.

The app was created by a team of PTSD clinicians, app developers, and user interface experts (the usual suspects), but it was also co-designed by 80 veterans in a residential PTSD program at Veterans Affairs Department Trauma Recovery Program in Palo Alto, California. The vets’ personal input led to insights that would have never come to light without their inclusion.

For instance, veterans made it clear that their needs involved being guided through techniques similar to those that they would use with a therapist, as well as the ability to be reminded of those who support them in living healthy lives, such as family members and friends. In response, designers created features like “Manage Symptoms” and an opportunity to personalize the app with photos and music from vets’ smartphones, as well as a specialized contact list of people to call for help if they are experiencing symptoms.

Vets also told the development team what they didn’t want on the app, including such features as GPS that share personal information, something that military training discourages.

While using downloads to track the effectiveness of an app like PTSD Coach isn’t a perfect metric, its 27,000 downloads in 53 countries does indicate a level of achievement in the world of endless apps. What this success should indicate to developers and agencies is that engagement with users’ needs — and users themselves — should always be part of the service-development process.